The local RI newspaper, The Providence Journal, has been doing a ton of advertising lately, radio, TV, in their own pages (I wonder if they have to buy space?). They have changed their website, and now offer an electronic version you can get for your Ipad or phone or whatever. While that's all fabulous for the 21st century, for RI genealogists, the most significant thing about the ProJo (as we locals call it), is that it has been publishing in some form for over 200 years.
One of the lesser known RI resources that I love is the daily index to the Providence Journal that is at the Providence Public Library (http://www.provlib.org/node/108). It runs from 1900 to 2004 and can help you find articles published contemporaneously with events in RI history. The microfilm collection maintained by the library is a complete run from 1829 to the present. And while you're at the library, you can access articles on their computers from 1983 to the present. Through newspaper research, we can find marriage notices, deaths and obituaries, and local stories about war heroes, political villains (we tend to have a lot of those locally), and just your average Rhode Islander, waiting out a blizzard or hurricane. We can access history as it's being made, and find things that may have been left out of the textboooks (and when it comes to RI research, that tends to happen a lot).
While getting the bare bones of names and dates for the vital information about our ancestors is the beginning of our genealogical research, putting the meat on the bones by understanding the historical context of our ancestors lives, how they may have been influenced by major events occurring in their communities, is what helps us to see them as real people, living real lives. They were affected by storms and economic downturns, and some may have even influenced the news themselves, and it's worthwhile to take a peak at what was happening in RI during their lifetimes. It may help us understand their motives and moves, marriages and misdemeanors.
As I work on a project about my great-grandmother, I started with the family oral history about her being active in politics, being a leader in her community and influencing striking workers at the local mill. I plan to use the index to find the written accounts of the tumultuous time during the Natick Mill Strike, to put together a better picture of the woman, her strengths and weaknesses, and her trials and triumphs. I'm sure that even if she is not mentioned specifically, by reading newspaper accounts, I'll know what the local authorities were saying to the media, and what was the general mood on the street. And that, is what makes genealogy into "family history" and make our ancestors come alive.